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How Radiologists Can Improve their Passive Aggression


Tired of being everybody's answer-man or go-to gal? Somewhere, there are radiologists who prefer to sit quietly at their workstations, cranking out cases to the best of their ability and cringing every time their flow of productivity is disrupted. I'm here to help.

Let me start out by expressing my confidence that there are multitudes of radiologists who are social butterflies and people-pleasers. Perhaps it’s even a majority that welcomes every visitor and phone call to the reading room, eager to help all comers at the expense of our burgeoning lists of responsibilities. With such wonderful vibes, one might question the need for initiatives like the “Face of Radiology” campaign and “Meet Your Radiologist.”

And yet…

Stereotypes rarely pop out of thin air. Somewhere, there are radiologists who prefer to sit quietly at their workstations, cranking out cases to the best of their ability and cringing every time their flow of productivity is disrupted.

Some of our colleagues push back with negative behaviors, typically of the passive-aggressive variety. And some might wish they had more tricks up their sleeves to get their visitors to go elsewhere.
I therefore offer up some tricks I’ve witnessed. I’m here to help.

Be dense, and slow. Tired of being everybody’s answer-man or go-to gal? If you can overcome your ego and not immediately offer solutions to other people’s problems, this ploy may be for you. No matter how simple the inquiry seems, think a long time about it. When you finally do speak, make excessive use of non-words like “hmmm” and “um.”

Feign misunderstanding of the question being asked, or make ridiculous assumptions that will negate any possible value in whatever answers you inadvertently give. Feel free to pretend that you didn’t hear what your questioner said, and address points they didn’t actually make. You’ll know you’re doing well when your visitors’ eyes glaze over, or they suddenly remember they’re needed elsewhere.

Be brilliantly indecipherable, or insanely tangential. If artificially slowing yourself to a mental crawl irritates even you, do the opposite: Crank yourself up to warp-speed. Coffee helps. Tell a dozen barely-relevant anecdotes, any one of which could eventually find its way back to your questioner’s topic of interest. Throw in a few jokes while you’re at it (they don’t have to be funny - in fact, it’s more effective if they’re not), and maybe something about what was on TV last night.

If you do find you’re accidentally on-task, speak quickly and use lots of jargon. Complicate the issue; if the question was whether to give IV contrast with a creatinine of 1.6, give an impromptu lecture on the histology of the nephron.

“You’re just the person I wanted to see!” Accumulate a laundry-list of non-vital things that need doing, especially tasks that would involve tedious busy-work. When one of your “regulars” (someone who interrupts you most frequently for the least important stuff) drops by, act ominously welcoming. Bring up the really important task that you needed someone to do - what a great coincidence that your regular dropped by, because now s/he can do it! People don’t like getting extra work. Once they associate it with their visits to you, they’ll make themselves scarce.

Make yourself repugnant. Develop a repertoire of bad puns, and mercilessly reuse them at all opportunities. Act very entertained by your own statements. Cultivate a speech impediment or a chronic throat-clearing issue. Get lots of garlic and onion in your diet, and avoid breath mints. Always be eating something when people drop by, and make sure to chew with your mouth open while you speak to them (chewing into the phone when people call you is also good). Stand too close to people. If you want to bring out the big guns, experiment with skimping on deodorant or only showering every couple of days.

Used effectively, techniques like these should get you some extra elbow-room with little delay, and you’ll finally be able to get some work done. If you want to take it to the next level, the good thing about these techniques is that they tend to bleed over into other areas of your life; you could find yourself with more solitude during your evenings and weekends, too. Play your cards right, and you could become a pariah of the first order. Any friends you somehow manage to retain will surely be impressed.

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